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Post-9-11 events and analyses

Ken Novak's Weblog

daily link  Monday, September 26, 2005

Bill Clinton, Beyond the White House: Tina Brown captures some of the spirit of the Clinton Global Initiative (which now has photos and transcripts online).  "This wasn't just the usual FOBs from Park Avenue and Hollywood (though there were plenty of those cruising around). With so many world policy chiefs present -- Tony Blair, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Condi Rice, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, even Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams, for heaven's sake -- the conference was a tour d'horizon of Clinton's life, and head, since the White House. (So that's what he's been doing on all those far-flung speaking gigs -- scarfing down public policy from the global minibar.) No one has figured out before how to leverage a post-presidency like this. Jimmy Carter's version has been about the power of example. Clinton's is about the power of power. He's been everywhere, met everyone (my favorite Clintonian aside: "As someone who went to Nigeria to plead for the life of a woman condemned under sharia law, I thank you for doing this."). Now he's putting that Rolodex to work for something bigger than the next campaign. ..

Unlike Davos and other high-octane gabfests, however, Clinton's conference wasn't just about elephant bumping. For every VIP there was some earnest activist or intellectual who has caught his eye.

Clinton seems to have found his role as facilitator-in-chief, urging us to give up our deadly national passivity and start thinking things through for ourselves. Commandeering the role of government through civic action suddenly feels like a very empowering notion ..

The White House doesn't seem to realize it yet, but we are entering a post-spin era in public life. The shift has long been underway in the business world, propelled by the Enron catastrophe and the collapse of the dot-com bubble. Process, not perception, is king in boardrooms today. After so much corporate malfeasance it all got too dire to put up with fake CEOs anymore.  Now after the Iraq debacle, the ballooning deficit and the aftermath of Katrina, Americans are pining for grounded leaders in public office, too -- leaders who have moral conviction, yes, but also the gnarly, dexterous ability to think things through."

  12:36:32 PM  permalink  

Insurgents 'inside Iraqi police': "Insurgents have infiltrated Iraq's security services, National Security Adviser Muwafaq al-Rubaie has admitted.
Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme, he said he had no idea how far the services had been undermined, with problems "in many parts of Iraq". It comes after the British Army said it was forced to take action to free two UK soldiers after learning Iraqi police had handed them to a militia group... Iraq's interior ministry ordered the police force in Basra to release the soldiers - but that order was ignored. ..

Colonel Bill Dunham, the chief of staff for the multinational force in Basra, told BBC radio the infiltration of insurgents into Iraq's security forces was a problem across Iraq.  A report released by the US defence department in July blamed the problem on poor vetting procedures and recommended that the quality of records at Iraq's interior ministry be checked. "

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daily link  Sunday, September 25, 2005

You Say Okjeryok, I Say Deterrent: From Tong Kim, recently retired from the State Department, where he was the senior Korean interpreter for high-level meetings involving U.S. officials, now at Korea University in Seoul.  "In contrast to the American media description of North Korea as a "Stalinist Communist state," I have come to see it as a Confucian nationalist monarchy, based on traditional Korean values and reflecting the bitterness born of foreign invasions throughout Korean history. In Confucian society, loyalty to the ruler and respect for elders are basic tenets. The iconic stature of the late "great leader" Kim Il Sung isn't that different from the Confucian image of a divine ruler. .. Recently the younger Kim said that denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was the last wish of his father; I think he really believes that carrying out his father's will is his filial duty in the Korean tradition."

  8:26:21 PM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, September 24, 2005

Clinton Global Initiative, 9/17/05: I posted some photos from the event.  I felt a bit conspicuous taking photos, so it's far from comprehensive, mostly just the receptions, but it might give a little flavor of it.  (And there's a few shots from a Climate Group reception the night before, and a show at the Vanguard the night after the conference.)  9:30:41 PM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, September 22, 2005

Don't Ignore Western Europe: "Western Europe is a core recruiting ground for Muslim terrorists that is being overlooked given the U.S. focus on Iraq and the Middle East, according to Francis Fukuyama, academic dean of Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. The failure of European countries to assimilate their large and growing Muslim populations in the era of globalization has caused an alienation among the young that has created a "hard core for terrorism," Fukuyama said in Washington at a bipartisan policy forum on terrorism and security, sponsored by the New America Foundation.

"Fixing the Middle East is only part of the problem. It is a West European problem, too," Fukuyama said. He pointed out that the leaders of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks came out of a cell in Hamburg and that most of the extremists participating in the more recent bombings in Spain and England were born in those countries.  Fukuyama's analysis squares with recent CIA conclusions about the importance of Western Europe, where, as one former senior intelligence official put it yesterday, "there are 10 million Muslims . . . that are not integrated into their societies."

Fukuyama called this one area of the war against terrorism in which U.S. and European interests merge and joint cooperation has begun to be productive. The Europeans "need to understand American assimilation" because their approach of "multiculturalism has been a failure," Fukuyama said"

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daily link  Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Taking Stock of the Forever War: Excellent long NYT article on the strategy and successes of Al Queda.   Strong parallels to the guerilla strategies of the Irgun against the British in Palestine, and the American provocation of the Soviets to draw them into Afghanistan.   To the future:  " truly democratic Iraq was always likely to be an Iraq led not only by Shia, who are the majority of Iraqis, but by those Shia parties that are the largest and best organized - the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa Islamic Party - which happen to be those blessed by the religious authorities and nurtured in Iran. Nor would it be a surprise if a democratic Saudi Arabia turned out to be a fundamentalist Saudi Arabia and one much less friendly to the United States. Osama bin Laden knows this, and so do American officials. This is why the United States is "friendly" with "apostate regimes." Democratic outcomes do not always ensure friendly governments. Often the contrary is true. On this simple fact depends much of the history of American policy not only in the Middle East but also in Latin America and other parts of the world throughout the cold war. Bush administration officials, for all their ideological fervor, did the country no favor by ignoring it. ..

Marc Sageman, a psychiatrist and former C.I.A. case officer who has studied the structure of the network, has written. "The movement has now degenerated into something like the Internet. Spontaneous groups of friends, as in Madrid and Casablanca, who have few links to any central leadership, are generating sometimes very dangerous terrorist operations, notwithstanding their frequent errors and poor training." Under this view, Al Qaeda, in the form we knew it, has been subsumed into the broader, more diffuse political world of radical Salafi politics. "The network is now self-organized from the bottom up and is very decentralized," Sageman wrote. "With local initiative and flexibility, it's very robust." We have entered the era of the amateurs. ..

Attacks staged by amateurs with little or no connection to terrorist networks, and thus no visible trail to follow, are nearly impossible to prevent, even for the United States, with all of its power. Indeed, perhaps what is most astonishing about these hard four years is that we have managed to show the world the limits of our power. In launching a war on Iraq that we have been unable to win, we have done the one thing a leader is supposed never to do: issue a command that is not followed. A withdrawal from Iraq, rapid or slow, with the Islamists still holding the field, will signal, as bin Laden anticipated, a failure of American will. Those who will view such a withdrawal as the critical first step in a broader retreat from the Middle East will surely be encouraged to go on the attack. "

  9:09:18 AM  permalink  

daily link  Monday, September 19, 2005

Privatized Global Problem Solving, Care of Clinton Alumni: Early coverage of the end of the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York:  "the first meeting of the former president's Clinton Global Initiative, which drew about 2,000 government, business and civic leaders, was surprisingly devoid of nostalgia or recrimination.   The conference's dominant ethos seemed to be: If we are out of power, let's see what else we can do to advance our priorities. As it turned out, the answer looked to be: quite a lot. ..

The commitments were as diverse as the audience. Michael Jordan's mother said her foundation would build a hospital for women and children in Nairobi, Kenya. Sir Tom Hunter, a charismatic, bullet-headed Scottish businessman, pledged $100 million to create comprehensive development plans for two poor countries with the aim of producing models that could be replicated elsewhere. Starbucks said that by 2007 it would buy a majority of its coffee at premium prices from growers who used environmentally sound methods and equitably compensated small farmers.  Cellphone service for the Gaza Strip, a $100-million investment fund for African business, a $300-million capital fund for clean-energy technologies in Europe, programs for young girls in Bangladesh and Brazil and for AIDS orphans in Africa — all made the list.  Late Saturday, Clinton put the total at 190 commitments valued, on paper, at $1.25 billion. ..

As [Clinton] has recognized, nonprofit groups and like-minded corporate executives have never believed more in their ability to influence global problems, with or without government sanction. Nor have governments ever looked more to the assistance of private players. "

I attended the CGI.  It felt like a meeting of a global civil society, with NGO's and business best represented, followed by governments, media and even celebrities.  I learned a lot, and heard a number of novel ideas, which I'll blog as time permits in the coming week.

  11:28:45 PM  permalink  

Paper Says Edible Meat Can be Grown in a Lab on Industrial Scale: "In a paper in the June 29 [2005] issue of Tissue Engineering, a team of scientists, including University of Maryland doctoral student Jason Matheny, propose two new techniques of tissue engineering that may one day lead to affordable production of in vitro - lab grown -- meat for human consumption. It is the first peer-reviewed discussion of the prospects for industrial production of cultured meat.

"There would be a lot of benefits from cultured meat," says Matheny, who studies agricultural economics and public health. "For one thing, you could control the nutrients. For example, most meats are high in the fatty acid Omega 6, which can cause high cholesterol and other health problems. With in vitro meat, you could replace that with Omega 3, which is a healthy fat.   "Cultured meat could also reduce the pollution that results from raising livestock, and you wouldn't need the drugs that are used on animals raised for meat." ..

"cultured meat could appeal to people concerned about food safety, the environment, and animal welfare, and people who want to tailor food to their individual tastes," says Matheny. The paper even suggests that meat makers may one day sit next to bread makers on the kitchen counter.  "The benefits could be enormous," Matheny says. "The demand for meat is increasing world wide -- China 's meat demand is doubling every ten years. Poultry consumption in India has doubled in the last five years.  ..

Matheny saw so many advantages in the idea that he joined several other scientists in starting a nonprofit, New Harvest, to advance the technology. One of these scientists, Henk Haagsman, Professor of Meat Science at Utrecht University, received a grant from the Dutch government to produce cultured meat, as part of a national initiative to reduce the environmental impact of food production."

Added implication: "Writing in this month’s Physics World, British physicist Alan Calvert calculated that the animals eaten by people produce 21 percent of the carbon dioxide that can be attributed to human activity."

  10:32:02 PM  permalink  

WHO chief won't push for generic bird flu drug: "Speaking at a conference of health ministers and experts from more than 20 countries, Director-General Lee Jong-wook said WHO wouldn't pressure Swiss-based Roche Holding AG to relinquish its patent on oseltamivir. Sold under the brand name Tamiflu, it is the only treatment so far proven effective against bird flu in humans.

Last month, Roche announced it would donate 3 million treatment courses of Tamiflu to a WHO-managed stockpile. .. "When a company is doing its part, it (pushing for a generic option) is not a good incentive, encouragement (for the company) to do more," Lee told The Associated Press. ..  "We are very keen to see generic versions of this anti-viral drug available, but we will not pressure Roche to do so (relinquish its patent)," said Peter Cordingley, a WHO spokesman. ..

Bird flu has claimed 63 lives in Asia – mostly in Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia – and ravaged the region's poultry stocks. Health officials in parts of Russia and Kazakhstan are also monitoring its spread. Most human cases have been traced to direct contact with infected birds, but Lee said it was "just a matter of time" before the virus mutates into a form that is transmissible between humans, possibly killing millions of people. "It will come," Lee said. "All the conditions are there." "

  12:10:59 PM  permalink  

daily link  Thursday, September 08, 2005

How the Wall Street Journal and Rep. Barton celebrated a global-warming skeptic: How the mainstream media is easily corrupted by ideology and well-funded lobbyists.  11:42:30 AM  permalink  

daily link  Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Suicide Solution: Christopher Dickey compares epidemics of suicide in different cultures, applied to today's terrorists.  "In “Dying to Win,” Pape concludes that  “suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation.” Whether the people blowing themselves up are Palestinians, Chechens, Kashmiris, Tamil Tigers, or for that matter Japanese kamikazes, they are part of nationalist struggles, he says, and “they see themselves as sacrificing their lives for the nation’s good”..” Pape is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and he holds on to this essentially political explanation even when it has to be stretched a bit. Did the problem of occupation loom large in the lives of the young British-raised Pakistanis and East Africans who attacked public transport in London last July? Where did occupation figure in the minds of the highly educated men from Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia who carried out the 9/11 attacks against the United States?  ..  Al Qaeda propaganda tells them that the ummah,  the global nation of all Muslims, is under attack. ..  But that perception is not new—and suicide bombings on this scale are. ..

“Once a specific form of suicide takes place, it becomes part of the thinking and, if you will, the repertoire of people who can identify with that person who killed himself,” says the Dutch researcher René Diekstra, now at Holland’s Roosevelt Academy. “We know that what we call ‘suicide contagion’ is particularly prevalent in the late teens and early adult age. There is a search for identity, and for heroism.” These are exactly the themes the suicide organizers exploit. ..

Over the long run, Diekstra argues, Muslim societies will have to change. Islam will have to reaffirm its traditional values to resist the romance of martyrdom that more and more young people find attractive. New role models for young Muslims will have to be found, publicized, and revered. But the first step in any such process, as Pape argues, is to end foreign occupations wherever possible..

In the 1980s you had some six million Palestinians and Lebanese under Israeli occupation. Now some 20 million Iraqis (especially the 5 million Sunni Arabs) feel themselves under U.S. occupation—plus 18 million Saudis and some 2 million Kuwaitis who may see themselves as threatened by foreign troops in their neighborhood. “If we ever decide to invade Iran,” says Pape, “we’re going to discover that 70 million people can provide a lot more suicide bombers.” To stop the spread of the suicide disease, in other words, we have to stop the spread of the occupation disease."

  9:38:49 AM  permalink  

daily link  Saturday, September 03, 2005

Catastrophic success: "Wolfowitz is the Mr. Magoo of American foreign policy. Like the myopic cartoon character, Wolfowitz stumbles onward blindly and serenely, leaving wreckage and confusion behind. .. The problem with Paul Wolfowitz isn't that he's an evil genius -- it's that he has been consistently wrong about foreign policy for 30 years."  Many details.  5:35:32 PM  permalink  

Predictions of the New Orlease flood: Quoting Time magazine in 2000, NPR in 2002, and other sources.  2:01:41 PM  permalink  

Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 5/16/2006; 3:34:24 PM.
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